Crystal Palace: The 2017/18 season report card
It’s been an up-and-down season at Selhurst Park but one that ended strongly. How did the Eagles stack up over the campaign?
Unwanted Premier League records, goal-scoring droughts and an incredible change in form – what a strange season it’s been at Crystal Palace.
Bottom of the table without scoring a goal after seven games, fans were fearing a long season ahead.
Despite a dire beginning, it turned out to be a relatively happy ending for the south London club. Fast-forward to May 13th, though, and Palace were three goals off of a top-half finish.
Let’s have a look at how the Eagles performed over the whole season…
In a season which featured arguably one of the ‘weakest’ bottom-halves in recent years, fans of teams that weren’t newly promoted from the 2016/17 season would have felt quietly confident at the beginning of August.
Huddersfield Town, though, had other ideas. The Terriers rolled up to Selhurst Park for their very first Premier League game and thumped a bewildered Palace side 3-0.
The humbling defeat was just the beginning, though, as then-manager Frank de Boer would go on to achieve a much-unwanted top-flight record. After 77 days in charge of the club, de Boer was given his marching orders by the board. Having only lasted four Premier League games, his reign is now the shortest ever recorded in the division.
It was a decision that was met with criticism, with many followers of football questioning whether the Dutchman had been given enough time to make an impact – de Boer’s only win came in the League Cup against Ipswich Town.
Veteran and ex-England manager Roy Hodgson was elected as his replacement and his first games ended in a 1-0 home defeat by Southampton. This was swiftly followed by a trip to Manchester City where Palace were dismantled and shipped five goals without reply.
The Eagles, and Hodgson, finally got off the mark with a surprising, albeit deserved, 2-1 home win over Chelsea. It was the catalyst that was needed; they lost only two of their next 11 games.
Despite a blip between Christmas and the middle of March, which saw only two wins from 11 matches, Palace ended the season strongly.
If it hadn’t been for such an awful start, Hodgson and his men may well have been looking at a very impressive top-eight finish. There are, then, plenty of positives to take into next season.
Domestic cup performances
At the beginning of the season, the early stages of the League Cup were as good as it got for Palace fans to have something to cheer about.
In fact, Palace had won twice in the competition before they had even scored a goal in the Premier League.
Frank de Boer’s only victory at the helm came in the first round, a laboured 2-1 home victory over Championship side Ipswich Town.
The competition also handed Roy Hodgson his first win in charge of the club. Palace’s second home tie in a row saw them avenge the opening day defeat by Huddersfield, beating David Wagner’s side to reach the third round.
At the third round stage, the season was going from bad to worse for Palace fans; the triumph over Chelsea a distant memory as they were thrashed 4-1 by then-high-flying Bristol City at Ashton Gate.
Despite reaching the third round, the Eagles conceded two more goals than they had scored in this season’s competition.
The FA Cup didn’t bring too much joy, either: it was a short-lived campaign.
Palace were eliminated at the first hurdle as rivals Brighton and Hove Albion ran out 2-1 winners at the Amex Stadium.
To rub salt into Palace wounds, it was ex-Eagles favourite Glenn Murray who netted the winner for the Seagulls with only a few minutes left on the clock.
After such a poor start to the season, perhaps Palace’s ambitions and priorities laid outside the domestic cup competitions this term, though the club would like to enjoy another season akin to the 2015/16 run to the final.
Highlight of the season
While perhaps not a season that features an abundance of extraordinary moments for Palace fans, the 2-1 over Chelsea will be seen as the crucial turning point.
An abysmal start to the season was showing no signs of being rectified, and it was a performance that merited the much-needed three points.
Although the next couple of results following the win were rather undesirable, there was a newfound confidence around the players and their performances that showed real intent to turn things around.
On the eve of the New Year, Palace became the first side to prevent run-away league leaders Manchester City from scoring, blunting their ferocious attack and grinding out a 0-0 draw, thus also ending their 18 game-winning run.
Luka Milivojevic could have stolen all three points for his side in the dying embers of the game, only to see his weak spot-kick saved by City goalkeeper Ederson.
Lowlight of the season
Rather predictably, the lowlight in Palace’s season is identified as the defeat away at Burnley in only the fourth game of the season.
The Eagles had just equalled a record that was last matched in 1924 – no side since then had lost all four of their opening league fixtures and not scored.
It was a match that was to be the end of Frank de Boer’s reign, making it the shortest in Premier League history.
Bewildered Palace fans knew nothing of what lay ahead, surely it couldn’t get any worse? Their side went on to set the record at seven games. Seven games with no win, no goal, no points.
The appointment of Roy Hodgson was questionable, and his case wasn’t helped by watching his new side concede 10 goals in his first three games.
Player of the season
The first couple of months of the season aside, Palace were unlucky not to have put more points on the board.
The performances came, but the points didn’t. Several players had upped their games and were doing more to justify selection.
Over the course of the season, and following an electric end to the season, Wilfried Zaha appeared to be back to his best and full of confidence.
The Ivorian netted five times and added four assists in his last nine matches, to finish one goal behind penalty-taker Milivojevic.
Only Andros Townsend set-up more goals, with nine assists, and Zaha’s end of season performances will see him take full confidence and belief into the start of next term, as speculation around his future increases.
Do you agree with our choices? Let us know in the comments below.